Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits.  It hardly gets more southern than this.  Biscuits might even be considered a downright staple in the south.  If New York has their bagels, then the south has their biscuits.

My mom was from the south, and there were hints of her southern upbringing sprinkled throughout our lives.  Like the fact that, for dinner, she would occasionally make fried chicken.  Real fried chicken.  The kind that is floured and battered and then fried in a cast iron skillet.  Honestly, as a kid, I didn’t fully appreciate the effort that went into making fried chicken.  The mere act of heating up an entire skillet of oil (Crisco, always, when I was growing up), and then skillfully frying it up to just the right doneness, is beyond anything I will even attempt in my kitchen.  I’m not sure which is more intimidating:  The idea of a skillet full of boiling hot oil on my stove, or the fact that the oil then needs to be dealt with afterwards (which in my childhood home meant it was saved in a can for future uses — ugh).  Either way,  it’s both a skill, and desire, I never achieved.  Which is why this post is not about fried chicken.

Mom's Mixing Bowl

I think the best part of those fried chicken dinners was the homemade biscuits.  My mom had this green bowl that she used for making bread.  It was the bowl that she used at Christmas to make her cinnamon rolls, but it was also used when she made biscuits.  Funny how at some point in its life, that bowl was shiny and new.  I have just always known it as a well-used, slightly blemished bowl.  Just looking at that bowl, I can picture it in Mom’s kitchen full of the the sticky biscuit dough.

Biscuits are everywhere these days.  The Colonel serves them with his meals.  McDonalds makes them into breakfast sandwiches.  The Pillsbury Dough Boy has his “Poppin’ Fresh” version.  But, all biscuits are not created equal and those other biscuits can only wish that they were the real thing.  So, while there are many opportunities to find a biscuit, let’s just say that very few options out there compare to an honest-to-goodness homemade biscuit.  Once you’ve had a warm, flaky, buttery biscuit fresh out of the oven, you’ll understand what the imposters lack.

I have to admit, when it comes to making biscuits, I’m not much of a purist as far as southern traditions go.  Maybe it’s because, while I have southern genes, I am definitely not southern.  I was born in Denver and raised in Seattle.  My biscuit-making process varies from the traditional that any southern baker is probably quite firm, and passionate, about.  I use a food processor.  I don’t worry about what flour I use.  And, I use a rolling pin to roll out the dough.   Any good, and true, southern baker, would most likely call any of this blasphemy.

But, what I do know is that this recipe makes some darn good biscuits.  And that’s good enough for me.

Happy Entertaining!

Food Processor  Ingredients in Food Processor

Water At The Right Temperature

Dough Pulsed Until It Looks Like Cornmeal

Sticky Dough

Biscuits Rolled and Cut  Biscuits Ready for the Oven

Buttermilk Biscuits

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Betty’s Pumpkin Bread

Fall.  People either love this time of year or they don’t.  I fall into the “love it” category.  Someone recently referred to it as a “transitional season,” which I think is an interesting concept.  The context in which they used the term leads me to believe that their point was that, during the fall months, we transition from a season where we spend most of our time outdoors to a pre-hibernation season and spend our time indoors.  Our habits and routines change with the shorter days and cooling temperatures.  For me, this is probably most evident in my kitchen where the oven gets called back into action after its summer vacation.


One of my annual fall traditions (habits?) is to make pumpkin bread.  Betty’s Pumpkin Bread, actually.  My good friend, Wendy, gave me this recipe years ago.  Long enough ago that it preceded the internet and e-mail and electronic communication.  The recipe was given to me on a 3 x 5″ index card that said “From the Kitchen Of” across the top, the recipe handwritten in Wendy’s beautiful script.  Betty was her Mom, and this was her recipe.  I now make this pumpkin bread every year, and I think of Wendy, and her mom (whom I never met), every time I do.  And it reminds me of the amazing ability that recipes have for bridging time and distance between people.  I love that, although Betty has been gone from this earth for a long time, something of hers lives on in my kitchen.  How great this thing called legacy is.

The only change I made to Betty’s bread is the addition of chocolate chips.  It makes me think that Betty was more practical and less indulgent than I.  Otherwise, the recipe is just as Betty made it.  This recipe will make two loaves, which is a good thing.  One loaf doesn’t last long around our house.  I made a loaf yesterday and at this rate, it won’t see the sunrise on Friday.

Happy Entertaining!

Walnuts and Chocolate Chips

Sifting Dry Ingredients  Ready for Baking

Fresh out of the Oven

Pumpkin Bread

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Good Tidings From The Garden

A recipe for Lemon Zucchini Bread showed up in my feed from Pinterest this morning.  Which was very timely since I had two zucchinis sitting on the counter, begging for some sort of indication that they would have a more glorious final act than aging slowly until a dishonorable discharge to the compost pile.  As you might guess, the zucchinis were gifts from our neighbors.  It’s that time of year when all the successful gardeners are walking around the neighborhood looking for good homes for their zucchinis.  Zucchinis are summer’s version of good tidings.  I am pretty sure that if Jesus had been born in the summer, the third wise man would’ve shown up at the stable bearing zucchini instead of myrrh.

The recipe sounded good and it was a nice variation from the standard zucchini bread I’ve made in the past.  Problem was, while I had plenty of zucchini, I didn’t have cake flour or canola oil, both of which the recipe called for.  I dug out my mom’s recipe for zucchini bread and it uses regular flour and vegetable oil, so I strapped on my “what the heck” attitude, greased my loaf pan, and gave my modified version of the recipe a test run.

Grated Zucchini

Juiced Lemon

What I am sharing with you today is an answer to three problems you may have.  One, you have your own abundance of zucchini (grown or adopted).  Two, you love desserts more than vegetables.  Three, the last green vegetable you ate was the peas your mom made you eat when you were 10.  If any of those apply to you, then this is the bread for you.  It isn’t actually overly sweet, and the lemon is subtle and good.  And I would challenge anyone, if they didn’t know it’s made with zucchini, to find any hint of the veggie.  The zucchini makes the bread moist and, in my book, qualifies this bread as a serving of vegetables.  Double win.  Oh, and it was easy to make.  Proverbial cherry on top.

This lemon zucchini bread would be a great thing to serve at your next Book Club meeting.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

Sliced Zucchini Bread

The loaf of bread is quickly disappearing.  We’re eating it the way people who live alone eat something like this.  Just a little slice off the end each time we walk by it, not bothering with a plate or napkin.  That means that crumbs will be all that’s left of the loaf of bread by Wednesday. I am so happy I have more zucchini requiring some attention.  Talk about a vegetable finding its rightful place in the universe!  From garden to wonderful Lemon Zucchini Bread.

Happy Entertaining!

Lemon Zucchini Bread

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Some Like It Hot

For as long as I have been making cornbread (the early days using the stuff out of the blue box notwithstanding), I’ve been making it in one of the cast iron pans that my mother-in-law gave me.  I’ve also been modifying the recipe and leaving out the chilies because I’m not a fan of food with heat.  Which means that Jon, who loves anything spicy, has been eating plain cornbread for years.

Then, the other night (when I should’ve been sleeping), I had a thought.  Couldn’t I solve the problem of the haves and have-nots by making the cornbread as muffins and adding chilies to some and leaving the others plain?  (I know.  Not exactly rocket science here. But it was a new thought to me so therefore counts as something novel.)  The next morning, I gave it a try.  I didn’t have any canned chilies, so I used some sliced jalapeños that Jon had in the refrigerator.  I used my small muffin tin, so the muffins would be bite size.  I first placed the slices of jalapeño on a paper towel to drain away any extra juice and then placed one slice in each muffin. The first batch I lined with paper liners, but found that too much of the muffin stuck to the liner (thus resulting in the urge to scrape the liners across your bottom teeth, creating a rather unbecoming sight for all).  So, the second batch I just put a little Crisco in each cup before adding the batter.

Cornbread Muffins Ready to Cook

The result?  Same great cornbread as the original in tasty (and sometimes “hot”) bite-sized morsels.  The muffins were moist, flavorful and just the right amount of sweet.  Oh, and did I mention cute?  Everything that a little muffin should be.  This recipe would be a great addition to a barbecue menu.

Happy Entertaining!

Cornbread Muffins with Sign

Cornbread Muffins

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Homemade Cinnamon Bread

When I look at my collection of recipes, I feel very fortunate to have so many from friends and family.  Those special recipes that come with some history and story.  This is not one of those recipes.  It didn’t come from some great aunt that made it for me when I visited as a child.  Rather, this recipe started out as one thing and ended up as Cinnamon Swirl Bread.

The original recipe was for a yeast coffee cake with chocolate chips that I thought sounded interesting (I couldn’t remember ever making a yeast coffee cake before) and that could be made to serve in the morning to overnight guests.  Conceptually, the recipe seemed good.  But once I started it, I realized that the recipe was actually a little awkward and I was making adjustments as I went.  The end result was sort of a clunky mess.  BUT, what did come out of it all was a dough that I actually thought of as “lovely” (which is noteworthy only because I seldom use that word, much less when discussing bread dough).

Given my clear emotional response to the dough, I decided to try the recipe with just a cinnamon and sugar filling, rather than the one that had been in the original recipe.  And here we are.  Enjoying the scrumptiousness of Cinnamon Swirl Bread.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

In the recipe, I give you two options for how to roll the dough.  The original recipe had me roll it,  bring the ends together and then twist it.  I do it this way when I make the Cinnamon Swirl Bread only because I like the random, wonky swirl I get.  But it’s a step easier to just roll it up.  You can choose to do it whichever way you prefer.

The smell of freshly baked cinnamon bread in your kitchen may be reason enough to make this bread.  But I have to tell you that this bread rises (no pun intended) to its true glory after it has been toasted and buttered.  Which means you can bake it ahead of time and then toast it in the morning for guests.  Go ahead and serve it on your good plates.  It’s worth celebrating.

Toasted Cinnamon Bread

Someday, this may be the center’s of someone’s fond memory of breakfast at your house.

Happy Entertaining!

Cool the Scalded Milk

An instant read thermometer is your friend to get the temp right

Whisk the Eggs

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light yellow and slightly thick

Add Yeast Mixture

Proofed yeast will look like this

Add Butter

Add softened butter

Knead Dough in Mixer

Use a dough hook to do the kneading

Transfer Dough to Bowl

Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl

Dough has Doubled

Dough has doubled in size

Dough Standing

Lovely dough waiting to be rolled

Rolled and Coated with Cinnamon

The good stuff: Sugar & cinnamon

Rolling the Dough

Roll the dough tightly

Dough Tightly Rolled

Pinch the edges

Bring Ends Together

Bring ends together


Twist and pinch

Ready to Bake

Let it rise in the pan until doubled

Loaf of Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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Zucchini Muffins: An Experiment in Cryogenics

What is it about zucchini.  It seems that every fall some well-meaning neighbor (the one with the big vegetable garden) brings us a gift of a home-grown zucchini.  They are always ginormous things (we have friends whose pet dogs are smaller than some of the zucchinis).  I know we have received this gift because gardens always produce more zucchinis than one person knows what to do with, so they are passed on to neighbors and become someone else’s problem to solve.

This has been going on since the beginning of time.  I remember my mom, who never grew a zucchini in her life, grating zucchini to freeze for “future baking.”  So, that’s what I do.  Grate it, freeze it and forget it’s there.  And, judging by the Ziploc baggie full of grated green that I found in the bottom of our freezer, that’s what happened this time.  It was dated September ’11.  It had just sat there in frozen limbo, for over 2 years, waiting for a purpose.

I didn’t actually see the date on the bag until after I had defrosted it.  At that point I was committed to making muffins so I just hoped that we wouldn’t die from some horrible people-killing scourge that grows in frozen zucchini after 2 years.

If it looked a little sad and dilapidated when I took it out of the freezer, it looked utterly pathetic after it thawed.

Grated Zucchini from the Freezer


Zucchini Chocolate Chip MuffinsTwo years of freezer frost created a lot of water when thawed.  So to take care of that problem, I just opened one end of the baggie about an inch and squeezed until all of the liquid was gone.

And, here we are.  Two years and two hours later enjoying a delightful zucchini chocolate chip muffin made from a homegrown zucchini. I have to admit, this isn’t a bad way to get a serving of veggies.

Happy Entertaining!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Just In Time for Mother’s Day

We had one of those impromptu sort of gatherings the other day that remind me what it’s like to be a good neighbor.  Okay, it was actually our sister-in-law who was the good neighbor.  She is equal parts thoughtful and convivial and is always looking for a way to bring people together.  So, when she heard that her friend Betty and her daughter were looking to plan a trip to Africa, she thought we should all spend some time together.  We had the easy part.  Just be here and be prepared to talk about the trip we’d taken to Africa a few years ago and show them our photos (at least the “friend-friendly” version that has been pared down from the nearly 5,000 photos we came home with).

I decided that since they were coming mid-morning, I should have some sort of baked good to greet them with.  It felt so, I don’t know, Gone With the Wind-ish (minus the war and all the bad parts).  I made lemon blueberry bread.  This is just the type of recipe to have at your ready.  It comes together in just a few minutes and while it bakes (for about an hour), you have time to put on lipstick, set out some napkins and make a pot of coffee.  And the best part?  It bakes like a bread, but tastes like a dessert. This might be a great way to say Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy entertaining!

Lemon Blueberry Bread

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A Craving for Orange Rolls

Sometimes it just starts with a hankering.  And many times, as in this case, I really don’t even know where the desire came from.  I just woke up one day and wanted orange rolls.  I was actually pretty sure that I had a recipe and that I had made them before.  But I couldn’t find anything in my notebook, so I had to get creative.

Since my mom’s cinnamon roll recipe makes such a good dough, I decided to start with that.  Then, I just adjusted the filling (substituted white sugar for brown and orange zest for the cinnamon).  And I tweaked the frosting, as well, to give it a taste of orange.

And, I don’t mean to brag, but holy cow these rolls are good!  The term that comes to mind is scrump-dilly-icious!  Thankfully I only made half a recipe because we managed to polish off the entire batch of rolls in just a couple of days.  And there were just two of us doing the polishing.

I have no intention of replacing cinnamon rolls in my diet.  But these zesty rolls provide a nice alternative, in case any of you are finding that a cinnamon-only diet is rather dull.


Hostess Hint:  There are many suggested ways to zest an orange. My lack of patience makes the idea of first peeling an orange and then dicing the peel into a zest, well, beyond my tolerance.  When something starts to look like a pain in the patootie, I usually bail.  So, my preferred method is to use a microplane grater.  Because of the oil, zest can be kind of sticky. I grate it onto a piece of wax paper and then sprinkle it on the dough from that. Or, if you find sprinkling the zest a bit challenging, then you can mix the butter, sugar and zest together in a bowl first and then spread the mixture over the dough.

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Nothing Smells Like Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Before there was Cinnabon’s, there was my mom.  Growing up, we never bought cinnamon rolls at the mall.  Our cinnamon rolls started in mom’s bread bowl and ended in her oven.  She would make them on Christmas morning and my memories of her rolls are firmly planted in my consciousness.  Just the smell of the milk, butter and sugar mixture warming on the stove reminds me of her rolls.

I’ve carried on the tradition over the years.  Although I use a bread maker to mix and knead the dough, which frankly feels a teensie bit like cheating to me.  I overcome the guilt by telling myself that I am, after all, making homemade rolls.  Which in some cultures is reason for reverence, I believe.  While Mom would make the dough and shape the rolls the night before, I haven’t gotten to the point where I trust the refrigerator with my dough.  So, there have been many Christmas mornings when I’ve gotten up at 4:00 AM to start the bread machine.  In both cases, the goal is to have freshly baked rolls for Christmas morning.  And few things, I think, make a place smell better than cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.  But, as we’ve seen in the mall,  these are not just reserved for the holidays.  Few things will say “good morning” to overnight guests quite like a homemade cinnamon roll.

Mom never frosted her cinnamon rolls but I do frost mine.  Because, honestly, frosting has been robbed of its rightful place in the food pyramid as one of the major food groups.

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A Fall Favorite

Fall.  People either love the season or they don’t.  I fall into the love category.  As the weather turns cool, I still feel this longing to go buy some new shoes, some new pencils and a lunch box.  But with school days long behind me (especially the days when I carried a lunch box), my new fall activities seem centered around the kitchen.  And I tell you, as soon as we get our first crisp, cold day, I immediately start craving pumpkin bread.  I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  Fall = drooling for pumpkin bread for me.

Speaking of the good ol’ days, as I was making pumpkin bread yesterday, I was thinking about how housewives, my mom included, used to get together at each other’s houses for coffee.  And things like coffee cake.  Starbucks, and other coffee houses, and the fact that a lot fewer women are actually at home during the day, have long since replaced that tradition.  But I was thinking that IF someone came to my house for coffee, in the fall, I’d serve them pumpkin bread.  If they got here shortly after I made it.  It doesn’t last long around our house.  I made a loaf yesterday and at this rate, it won’t see Friday.

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Skillet Corn Bread

Corn Bread

Many years ago, when my husband and I were first dating, we took a weekend trip to the wine country in Northern California.  This was long before we actually lived in California, and it turned out to be the first of many trips we’d take to the wine country together.  But back then, enveloped in our new love and lust, it was a magical weekend for many reasons.  We stopped for dinner in Rutherford and ordered the cornbread.  I think it’s safe to say that it was the best cornbread I had ever eaten.  A far cry from the stuff my mom made from the little blue box.  We asked for the recipe and, while they weren’t able to give us the actual recipe, they did provide the basic ingredients.  Years later, I found a recipe in a cookbook I bought from a bed and breakfast, which became my base and inspiration for this recipe.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, I have a hand-me-down, perfectly-seasoned cast iron skillet that I use for making this bread.  I have to admit, I’ve never made it in any other pan, but I’m sure any 8″ pan will do nicely.

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